Astaxanthin ameliorates cartilage damage in experimental osteoarthritis

Mod Rheumatol. 2015 Sep;25(5):768-71. doi: 10.3109/14397595.2015.1008724. Epub 2015 Jun 12.


Purpose: Astaxanthin is a red-pigment carotenoid found in certain marine animals and plants. Astaxanthin has been shown to inhibit matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) expression in vitro. However, the effect of astaxanthin on cartilage is still unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of astaxanthin on cartilage in experimental osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: New Zealand rabbits underwent anterior cruciate ligament transection to induce OA in right knee. Rabbits received intra-articular injection containing 0.3 ml of vehicle (dimethyl sulfoxide) or astaxanthin (50 μM). Injection was started on the day of operation, and the injection were performed once weekly for six consecutive weeks. Then, rabbits were sacrificed and the right knees were harvested for study.

Results: Cartilage degradation was reduced by astaxanthin, as assessed by morphological and histological examination. Astaxanthin inhibited the gene expression of MMP-1, MMP-3, and MMP-13 in cartilage as compared with the vehicle group.

Conclusions: The results suggest that astaxanthin may be considered as pharmaceutical agent in OA treatment.

Keywords: Astaxanthin; Matrix metalloproteinases; Osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine